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Credit Card Review: Citi Double Cash

A cash back credit card is a flexible alternative to airline miles cards, gas cards and other specialty rewards cards. However, cash back programs are often complicated, with multiple reward levels and confusing limitations. The Citi Double Cash card does away with tiered rewards, rotating purchase categories and quarterly spending limits altogether, providing cardholders with the flexibility of cash rewards without any of the complexity. Issued by Citibank, a subsidiary of Citigroup (C), the Citi Double Cash card is an attractive option among the top cash back credit cards available today.

The Rewards and Benefits

As its name suggests, the Citi Double Cash card pays cardholders two cash back rewards. The first reward pays 1% cash back for every dollar of spending on the card. The second reward pays another 1% cash back for every dollar paid toward the account balance. This means a cardholder who pays off the full card balance every month accumulates a total of 2% cash back on every dollar spent almost immediately. A cardholder who carries a month-to-month balance on the card realizes the second 1% reward a little more slowly as the balance is paid down.

This card has no annual fee and comes with a 0% introductory annual percentage rate (APR) on all purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months of card ownership. Additionally, cardholders get access to a wide variety of consumer protection benefits from Citibank, including identity theft and fraud protection, damage and theft protection for purchases, and several travel-related insurance programs. The Citi Double Cash card even provides a late-fee forgiveness opportunity if you miss a payment on the card.

The Fine Print

To redeem cash back rewards, cardholders must first accumulate a rewards balance of at least $25. Rewards are redeemable in the form of a check, a credit on the card statement or a credit on a linked Citibank checking or savings account. Various gift cards in several denominations are also available for redemption.

When the 15-month introductory APR period ends, the APR rises to between 12.99 and 22.99% depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. The new APR applies to both purchases and balance transfers. The cash advance APR is 25.24%. While carrying a cash advance balance is generally bad, cardholders should also avoid carrying a purchase balance on this card. At a minimum APR of 12.99%, interest charges quickly erase any gains from the cash back rewards program.

Main Competitors

The Citi Double Cash card has a number of worthy competitors, including the Discover It card, the Chase Freedom card and the Blue Cash Everyday card from American Express. These cards all feature attractive cash back rewards programs and introductory 0% APR periods, and none of the cards has an annual fee. However, these cards can't match the combination of simplicity and value found in the Citi Double Cash card. While other cards may offer 2, 3 or even 5% cash back opportunities, purchase restrictions and spending limits are usually in place to reduce the overall value of those opportunities. The Citi Double Cash card has no purchase restrictions or spending limits at all.

While the Citi Double Cash card does stand out for its combined 2% rewards rate, the card does not offer any additional cash back bonuses for new cardholders. Other cash back rewards cards, including the Chase Freedom card and the Blue Cash Everyday card from American Express, for example, offer an automatic $100 cash back bonus for spending a required amount of money in the first three months of card ownership.

Who Should Get It

This card is a terrific option for big spenders and anyone who doesn't want to worry about rotating purchase categories and other complex cash back rules. While careful cardholders may be able to wring as much value out of other cash back cards, the Citi Double Cash card returns exceptional value without the fuss. Given the options currently on the market, no fuss is not bad for a cash back card.

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